By Tom Chalkley, Charles Cohen and Brennen Jensen (baltimore City Paper's “Charmed Life'” 10/25/2000)
We don't believe in spooks. We don't, we don't, we don't believe in spooks. And yet . . . on a chilly October night, when the leaves rattle against the fire escape and the computer crashes again and again for no apparent reason, we find ourselves drawn to supernatural explanations. Get a grip, we tell ourselves. Those lights going on and off? Nothing more than old wiring. That vase that crashed from the shelf? Vibrations from passing trucks. That man in colonial dress, stomping around in the attic? Well?
Some of Baltimore's long-running ghost stories really don't bear repeating. The old canard about 1812-era sailors pacing the decks of the U.S.S. Constellation has run up against recent revelations that the ship in the harbor was built in the 1860s. As for “Sequin,” the blonde in the blue cocktail dress who used to haunt Route 40 East, she's just a local rendition of the same “ghostly hitchhiker” yarn that's told in every state of the union. (” . . . There, on her gravestone, was his sweater!” Yeah, yeah.)
But then someone tells us about the poltergeist in their grandma's house, and we wonder all over again: Might not a strong personality, or a soul in agony, depart this life but leave behind them some sort of disturbance in the ether, a rogue wave of psychic energy that slaps against our consciousness? Surely, if such things occur, they are bound to crop up in Baltimore, where pride, pain, and passion have attended at so many gravesides, for so many years.
It is not for us to judge. As journalists, we merely relate the facts as they have been presented to us…
Frenchie the Friendly Ghost
Six years ago, Lisa McLane-Cook had just started working as a bartender at the Club Charles, the venerable boho bar at 1724 N. Charles St. It was around 4 in the afternoon. The club was closed. The doors were locked. A heavy curtain was drawn over the front window. Club owner Joy Martin was in the basement office, leaving McLane-Cook alone in the shadowy bar to ready things for the evening shift.
Or was she alone?
Glancing up from her duties, she saw a “small, older gentleman in black trousers and white shirt” standing at the top of the stairs leading to the upper bar. He stared down at her. She stared back. When she glanced away for a moment the gentleman disappeared.
“Is there a ghost here, or am I losing my mind!” she screamed, storming down the basement steps. Martin calmly looked up from her paperwork. “Oh, that's just Frenchie,” she said. “We don't like to tell the new people about him.”
Continue reading about ghosts at the Club Charles and Zodiac, the Phantom of O'Donnell Heights, and more ghosts at Duda's, the Theatre Project and Baltimore Museum of Industry at the City Paper's “Baltimore's Ghost Stories to Tingle Your Spine”.